Ask Debby Herbenick | Multiple orgasms and the clitoris

Answers to your most penetrating sex questions.

Q I have noticed that if I or a woman I am with has a series of orgasms spaced about 5 to 15 minutes apart, they get exponentially better until one’s very sanity is threatened. (Although I haven’t tested this theory past six orgasms.) Do you know any scientific reasons why orgasms seem to get exponentially better when received within perhaps 5 to 15 minutes of the previous one? Do you know what the maximum number of separate orgasms men or women can have? Like, is there a world record for this?
A Orgasms are tricky little buggers. Many women are capable of multiple orgasms—that is, orgasms that occur without a woman losing her arousal. Whether these are spaced by seconds or minutes is less of an issue than the fact that they happen within one arousal-maintaining event. Most men are not technically capable of experiencing multiple orgasmic ejaculations, due to their refractory period, which keeps them from ejaculating again for some length of time after the first ejaculation. The refractory period could be moments, hours or, less often, a day or two. Some men, however, train themselves to experience multiple successive orgasms that feel good but that delay ejaculation. In any case, people experience orgasms differently. I have rarely heard people say each orgasm is better and better. More often, people describe variability among successive orgasms—that is, one may be quite intense, the second may be meh, the third may be overwhelming, and so on. That said, some women and their partners feel very excited or proud of each orgasm—as if they’ve really accomplished something. For people who get pumped with each new orgasm, that extra excitement can certainly make people feel happier or more aroused in ways that enhance the next orgasm. And certainly some women find that once they have had one orgasm, it is easier to have a second. However, we still don’t know nearly enough about orgasm—you can read about the current state of affairs in The Science of Orgasm (Johns Hopkins University Press, $25). As for records? Some women have clocked more than 100 successive orgasms. A few rare men have chalked up a dozen or so, one right after another, though these are extreme examples. I imagine if people had the time, inclination and lube, even larger numbers could be achieved. However, for most people, the pleasures of the rest of life take over, and we venture outside the bedroom.

Q I am going to be a proactive leader in my family of all boys by inquiring about masturbation. My husband and I have two very normal and healthy teen boys (13 and 14). I have been noticing my lotion and body oils disappearing at a rapid rate. I am guessing that Curel body lotion is not the ideal product to use for masturbating. Can you advise me on what I might buy and how I give this to the boys?
A How great that you want to be a sex-positive parent! You might find it helpful to read Beyond the Big Talk: Every Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Teens (Newmarket, $16.95). It’s written by a well-respected sex educator and provides great detail about how to talk to teenagers about sex and masturbation. You’ve asked good questions about lubricant, too. Men’s genitals are mostly covered with skin, so lotion is fine (and a lot less expensive than lubricants made for sex). Women have more sensitive tissues, so lotion isn’t a good choice for them. When the boys get older and start having sex with partners, if those partners are women, they will want to choose lubricants that are safer for women’s bodies, such as K-Y Liquid or Astroglide. In the meantime, lotion is fine and can help to make their masturbation feel good while reducing irritation to their penis, particularly if they are doing it often (as many teenage guys do when they discover it). If they have their own bathroom, you might start stocking their bathroom with hand lotion—generic is fine for their purposes! You and your husband might also check out books for teenagers about sex and their bodies to see if they’d be a good fit for your sons—The Guy Book (Crown, $12.95) is a good starting place.

Q I have not had a period for 11 weeks. I don’t think I’m pregnant; however I keep bleeding during sex and I don’t know what’s going on. Do you?
A If you haven’t had a period for 11 weeks, check in with a health-care provider for a pregnancy test and a general health screening. It’s unusual for women to go nearly three months without a period unless they are using a birth-control method that results in fewer periods, such as Depo-Provera (the birth-control shot). Your lack of periods combined with spotting during sex suggests the need for a closer look by a doctor or nurse.

Q I remember reading something you wrote a long time ago that was about giving oral pleasure to a female. You referenced a book on how to do it properly, and I was wondering if you could recall the title or suggest a book on the topic?
A If it was a book about performing oral sex on women, then it was most likely She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman (Harper, $15.99)—a classic in the world of better-sex books. I like so much about this book—that it walks men (and women, too—it’s a great book for anyone) through the intricacies of women’s genitals, including all the little parts and sub-parts of the clitoris. Toward the back of the book are all sorts of technique suggestions. Because women like different types of touch, licks and kisses when it come to oral sex, these techniques provide a good starting place. A few key points to keep in mind when you perform oral sex on a woman: (1) Expect it to last a long time. It may not—some women orgasm quickly—but others may take 10, 20, 40 or more minutes to orgasm. Your tongue or jaw may get tired. You may even want to switch in and out of sexual activities, depending on her and your preferences. (2) Some women feel very self-conscious about how their genitals look, so throw her a bone. No, not THAT bone—a bone in the form of a compliment. Try “you’re so beautiful” as you stare at her vulva. Or “I love how you look.” (3) Variety isn’t always the spice of life. Though some women orgasm after a lot of poking around, others prefer their oral-sex partners to do one thing for minutes on end until they reach orgasm. Explore as you will together, but once you find that one thing that she enjoys—and lets you know by moaning, telling you or quivering—you might want to stay there for a while. (4) Know, too, that there are insertees and non-insertees. Some women crave external stimulation only, and others want a finger (or two) or a tongue inside their vagina while you’re going down on them. You might ask her what she likes before springing a finger or dildo on her—and then enjoy.

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